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Friday Question of the Day – How Much Do You Have Saved for Retirement? (reader request)

by Prince Of Petworth November 15, 2012 at 10:22 pm 173 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user ekelly80

A reader writes:

I see that you do polls from time to time. I have always wondered how I compare realistically to my peers in financial security. I know what they say in a “perfect” world you should have X amount in your 401K by a certain age and a minimum of a 6 month emergency fund in savings, but living in the real world being a single person in a very expensive town those numbers seem to be far out of reach.

I would love to see two polls set up, one for Single People and one for Married/Partnered that show…..

Retirement Savings (401K, Bonds, Stocks, anything you save but can’t get your hands on tomorrow to spend)
Emergency Fund (savings accounts, mattress stuffing, anything you put away in case you need it and can reach it quickly)

Unfortunately to put all the data you suggested would require a survey rather than a poll and the survey software I have won’t show the results to you. So maybe folks will specify their specific situation in the comments.

And also be curious to know at what age people they’ll realistically be able to retire?

But in the meantime here is a general poll question asking how much folks have saved for retirement:

  • Anonymous

    These categories skew kinda low…

    • Anonymous

      Agree – I’d be interested in knowing how many people have saved 200,000 or 500,000 or more.

      • Anonymous

        Why? Why are 200K and/or 500K+ your benchmarks of interest?

    • Anonymous

      I think they skew high.

  • Anonymous

    I think this could be an interesting topic… the survey needs to go into a little more detail. What about using google docs for the survey?

  • diskothek

    Three words: whole life insurance. Start with convertible term, then convert to whole – you can borrow from the cash value when you retire and protect yourself from a host of risks: inflation, market, tax, etc. I’m saving in a 401(k), too, but have to worry about paying taxes and how much the market will go up or down. Starting with the insurance bit gives me peace of mind. *swear I’m not an insurance salesman!

    • Anonymous

      are you sure that is a better return than just directly investing the cost of inusrance? i need more analysis of whether that would really work.

    • Whole life is also more expensive than term life. Don’t forget, the additional money that people put into the policy (using it like a tax free savings account) does not go the beneficiary. The company keeps that additional money and only pays out the value of the policy.

    • Whole life is also more expensive than term life. Don’t forget, the additional money that people put into the policy (using it like a tax free savings account/investment fund) does not go the beneficiary. The company keeps that additional money and only pays out the value of the policy.


    • two words – rip off! Whole is not a savings vehicle it is a scam that personal advisors, agents push to make a COMMISSION!

      Watch suze orman…

  • Anon X

    I think current age is important too. Having 100k saved up when youre 40 is a problem, having it saved when youre 30 is totally different.

    • anon

      +1000000 knowing the age in theses polls is imperative.

      • anon


    • Anony

      I and a bunch of others are probably skewing these results in a bad way… without age this poll doesn’t make much sense. I answered 5-10k but I am also only 23. Good idea, but as was pointed out, this is more of a survey than a simple pool kind of question

  • dat

    Wow, I am shocked to see the large number of single people with 100k+ retirement saved. That either means that the average readership on here is much older than I thought, or much better off than I thought…

  • hillizen

    27, single. Not sure how much I have in my TSP (government 401k basically), but I’ve been putting in 3% of my salary for the past 3.5-4 years which gets matched. I also have $22k in the bank, $10k of which is going into a Roth IRA in the next few months.

    • hillizen

      And I forgot to mention that I put myself in the $20-40k category.

    • Remember, $5,500 max contribution per calender year to a Roth IRA. If you are going to do 10 grand, make sure to do $4,500 before 12/31/12. Unless you are over 50, at which point you can do $6,500 per year.

    • Nicoli

      I assume that your agency matches up to 5% of your salary (I think it is only a 50% match for the last 2% matched). You should make sure to at least get that.

    • Anonymous

      Good good but you are almost certainly leaving free money on the table. Increase your TSP contribution to 5% to maximize employer match. Then additional savings goes into Roth. Roth is an incredibly amazing deal. Good to make use of it while you’re not yet income-disqualified.

      • actually no one is income disqualified (since 2010). contribute to a non-deduct ira and then do a roth conversion.

  • AnnE

    48, single and I have about $250,000 saved. I’ll also pay off the mortgage on my house in the next few years.

    But retirement calculations show I need something along the lines of 1.2 million saved for my retirement.

    Guess I’ll just not retire.

    • TG

      I know right. Here you have done a great job of saving for retirement and it is not close to being enough. Kind of messed up.

  • PW

    I’m 45 partner is 54. Jointly we have about $500K in 401K and savings. Again, nowhere near enough…

    • Anonymous

      That depends on what your retirement expectations are. There are many many many places in the States you could retire today on that and have a very nice life. My two best friends both retired from the Navy in Norfolk and sold their house, bought a HUGE 5 BR mansion in SC (not as bad as you would think) and have retired very nicely. The location is safe, cheap taxes, lots of shopping near by and in between their two families locations. So retirement depends on your expectations. As a single man I don’t think I could retire in DC to live, it would be too expensive.

      • Anonymous

        key info here “retired from Navy” – both would receive some kind of pension that would make a difference in retirement options.

        • jl

          Don’t think they offer pensions anymore…

          • bob

            all of the military branches still have pensions

  • LoganCircle

    47, single (never married, no children).

    $600K in retirement investments, $20K readily available. Already semi-retired (half-time); probably fully retired in two or three years. Renting in Logan Circle, but only need about $45K a year to live on (I’ve radically simplified my needs). Definitely not for everyone.

    • bob

      so you’re only planning on living to be 60 then?

      • Anonymous

        Well he probably expects a return on investment. But yes, his funds are probably insufficient to retire on.

    • Anonymous

      That is no where near enough to retire on. You’re on track but you need to keep working and saving in order not to die in poverty.

      • Logan Circle

        The $600K in investments are earning $35K a year in dividends (actually partnership distributions), which are increasing better than inflation. Another two to three years, and my cash savings will be around $120K, which gives me $10K a year until age 62, at which time I get social security at $12K a year. My $45K per year living requirements includes taxes. So I’m covered without even touching principal.

        And if things really go south, I can always move to SW Waterfront and cut my annual living expenses another $7K or so.

  • Anon

    25, single, ~25k in Roth IRA, ~2k in (new) work retirement plan. Also just put 20% down on a condo.

  • Anonymous

    Married (26, husband 37) – Retirement: over 300,000
    Savings: around 75,000

  • Anonymous

    I am 35yrs and have just over 150K in my 401K plan. But I don’t have much savings in emergency fund. Then I own my home(well I bought a home for 410K 7yrs ago) so I count that towards my assests.

    I definitely need to start building savings for emergency.

  • Anonymous

    31, single.
    $82K for retirement ($60K in a 401k and $22K in a Roth IRA)
    $35K in more liquid savings (trying to get that down payment for a house)

  • Anonymous

    31, single, $0 in retirement, $2000 in savings.

    It’s hard enough making friggin’ rent in this city when you’re also paying $600/mo in student loans and barely cracking 40K.

    • Anonymous


      • Anon

        And hallelujah. Married, 31yo (both), first baby on the way. 25K in the TSP account, 6K in a traditional IRA, and 22K in a savings account. Owe 330K on the mortgage and 120K in student loans. No credit card debt. We live comfortably now, but it will be a long, long time before we retire.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed, no inheritance, no hand outs. I really respect that.

      But this kind of makes me worry. No so much for retirement, but just savings–I suggest really trying to save enough for an emergency.

      If you are paying more than 600 in Rent, in my opinion, it’s time to move. And go on financial lock down until you build up at the very least 10,000 in savings.

  • SB

    I’m 25 and single – have around 30K in retirement savings and 10k in normal savings. I just bought a house that I put 16% down on so I’m trying to rebuild my emergency fund.

    • Not that it’s really my business, but I can’t even imagine buying a house at 25! Perhaps that’s because I’m also 25 and living on a non-profit salary. Did you get an amazing deal on a house?!?

  • Anonymous

    32, married w/ one kid. Have about $750k in liquid investments (not counting primary residence) (helpful that we started out with about $325k in inheritance a few years ago).

    • Anonymous

      Helpful, my a$$. That’s the REASON you have the money.

      • Anonymous

        Wow, if you can turn $325k into $750k in “a few years,” will you manage my money?

  • Dupont

    26, $30k in 401k and $4k in savings. How the hell am I ever going to afford a house or bolster my liquid savings? Also, have no idea if I’m off to a good start or if I’m behind.

    • TG

      You are off to a great start. When I was 26 I had no retirement savings and spent all of my cash on an engagement ring. Luckily that investment is still going strong.

      • Non e Mus

        Okay, this is probably a question better suited for a whole different thread, but would anyone want their SO to put their entire savings – or any significant part of their savings – into an engagement ring? Is it that important to impress one’s friends?
        Not blaming you. Just asking the question.

        • Anonymous

          I’d rather not have my SO put entire savings into an engagement ring. Seems an easy choice. While some may agree, plenty more will disagree. I don’t think it’s always about impressing friends, though size may speak more to that point than the symbol of the ring itself. To each his/her own. Cheers!

  • Anonymous

    Wow–people on this blog clearly make a lot more money than me! I’m 38, and feel lucky to have $52K saved, given my salary has been under $50K (nonprofit work) my whole career, well, until a raise this year. But I paid 20% down on my condo and have a 2-year emergency fund, so feel I’m doing pretty well.

    • Anonymous

      You are doing well. Don’t let what others here write try to tell you that you are not. There might be others who come here and say they have XXX saved but you don’t know what their circumstances are. You seem like an organized person, which will be helpful.

    • If anything, this post reminded me that A LOT of people in DC have family money. I can guarantee you that most of the people in this thread didn’t get it all on their own. If you’re in this thread and talking about how you’re under 30 with $80K+ in liquid assets & retirement and how you put 15%+ down on the home you own, there is no way in hell you did that on your own without help. Even if you’re working corporate law, you simply would not have enough time to accumulate that level of assets at that age solely through your own work.

      As I’ve said in other posts on real estate on this blog, EVERYONE I know in DC under the age of 33 who owns property here used family money for the down payment. I know this because I make more than they do and I’m nowhere near buying an apartment. DC attracts well educated professionals, which tends to correlate strongly with coming from wealthy or upper-middle class families. Family money combined with low interest rates are what’s driving a lot of the real estate boom in DC for the buying segment in their early 30s or younger.

      • Anonymous

        Not everyone in DC has family money/trustfunds/inheritances. Believe it or not, there are some people, even people who live in DC, who are completely self-made, coming from no or little money. I admit that they may be few and far between. You are right, though, that there are lots of people that rely on family money. I think self-made people are far more admirable. I wouldn’t begrudge someone, though, because they have family money to help them out. Times are so different and you don’t know the reasons that come behind those helpful funds. Some come with family history (absent parents, strings attached, etc.). The only time I really dislike family money supporting someone is when that person is insufferable.

  • slb

    30, single, $60k in retirement savings, $13k in emergency savings, $1k/mo in student loans…I have only been contributing to savings since I graduated and started working full time 4 years ago. I feel very fortunate to now be in a position where I can contribute the maximum amount to 401k & IRA each year (though this really puts a big constraint on my budget, it’s worth it), so hopefully I can make up for the time when I didn’t save anything while I was in school.

  • anon

    Thanks for this post – it reminded me to go look at my TSP balance.

    35, single. Have just over $150K in my TSP (I always put in at least enough to get the entire match and then as soon as I could I put in the match). Have about $20K in a roth and about $80K in random savings. I also have about 40% equity in my home.

    I was REALLY lucky. When my grandmother died, she left me enough sock to put down on my first home. That gave me the freedom to save, and the money I made on that home made my second home purchase possible.

    The scary thing is that the retirement calculators still have me needing millions to retire – and say I need to save about 50% of my salary to get there before I am 65. I just don’t see how that is possible. I know I am in good financial shape, so if I feel behind, I can’t imagine those number are right. And if they are, that is really, really scary.

    • anonymous

      I wonder if the some of the retirement calculations make the assumption that you want to continue the same level of spending in the same area. If you’re planning to live in the DC metro area through your retirement, I could see how more savings would be needed. However, if you’re planning to plant yourself in small town Louisiana or a nice little town in Iowa, the savings could stretch a bit further, I should think.

      • anon

        True, but I’d rather plan to stay here and be wrong than plan to move and really want to stay. I’m only 35, so I have no idea where I’ll want to be when I’m 65. I think I’d like to stay here, but who knows. I just have to hope that my savings and current low-spend/high save lifestyle will work out for me in the end.

  • Anonymous

    ugh. i need a new life.

  • 27, $2K in an emergency fund, $12K in my 401K, and I just liquidated my mutual funds for a down payment on a condo.

    What comes in goes right back out for the mortgage and credit card debt (remnants from a bad move-in situation with a now ex from years ago–100% of my salary went to rent at two places. Awful) so there’s little for savings. I’m happy I’m not throwing money away on apartment rent anymore, and we’re making bigger dents on the credit card balances.

    I spoke to my 401K administrator about the save for retirement vs. pay of existing debt, and he said 99% of the time, it is more financially sound to pay off existing debt before saving for retirement. I’ve got ~3% of my salary going into a 401K–not the max amount, but not nothing.

    • I’m not a financial advisor, but I do work in the retirement industry. I would recommend contributing to your 401k up to the point of your employer’s match, and then put as much as you can toward your credit card debt, since that likely is at a higher interest rate than the rate of return you can make on your retirement accounts.

      As a general rule, most people should contribute up to the point of an employer match – otherwise, you’re just throwing away free money!

      • This is sensible advice. Comparing the cost of debt vs. the return on investment is a very basic calculation many people don’t do. If you invest in Treasury bonds at 2.5% instead of paying down student loans at 8%, you’re shooting yourself in the foot (caveats: keep enough liquid reserves to cover contingencies without running up expensive credit card debt, and do make sure you take the match).

      • jl

        What would you suggest if your employer doesn’t match at all?

        • Anonymous

          If no 401K match I would contribute to a Roth IRA. No deduction now but when you withdraw from it it will be non-taxable.

        • my company doesn’t match (i have a pension though). I still put in the max… reduces taxable income.

  • Mid to late twenties

    Reading these comments, it is clear that I am behind. I have about 30k in savings and just 5k or so in a 403(b).

    • Mid to late Twenties

      Should probably add that I am married but we can’t depend on receiving a survivor social security check due to the fact that the federal government treats us as second-class citizens, i.e. we’re a gay married couple.

      • Anonymous

        1) That’ll change long before you’re eligible for Social Security.
        2) Social Security will change long before you’re eligible for Social Security.

  • kilodeuce

    25, single, 40k in TSP, 4500 in emergency fund, 8200 in a mutual fund that I want to use as a house downpayment. I almost max out TSP this year, but next year I’m biting the bullet and maxing out the full 17500. My parents retired when they were 57 and I want to retire as soon as I can!

  • Anonymous

    I’m 28 and am the lone person with $500K?

    To much blogging for you all.

    • Thanks for illustrating why I’m not discussing my income – I don’t want to seem like a douche.

      • Anonymous

        It might be the return of PPercy.

        • Haha, that was my thought!

      • Marcus Aurelius

        Anyone who thinks you’re a douche for making a really good living is a douche his- or herself – unless you are doing something illegal, in which case you may be a douche.
        People are way too defensive about money. There’s no reason to apologize for making a lot of money, or to apologize for not making a lot of money.

        • Marcus Aurelius

          Also no reason to judge anyone positively or negatively based on how much or little money he or she makes. That’s being a douche.

    • If you were able to do that, good for you.

      However, some of us may have chosen professions that are emotionally rewarding, but not financially lucrative. That’s not to blame those who are in lucrative positions who may also find their work satisfying–just to say one shouldn’t blame/frown upon those who have managed to save less without knowing the full picture.

      • Anonymous

        Agreed. Lots of reasons someone might be “behind” in this area. We give about $40k/year as part of our faith. Retirement picture would look very different if we put that or even a substantial portion of it away for ourselves.

    • Anonymous

      Not everyone has a trust fund and parents who can pay for college/professional degrees…

    • Anonymous

      If we all had that much, you wouldn’t be able to be such a smug douchebag, so maybe you should be thanking us.

    • Anon X

      I am 28 and I have 1 million in savings. Why are you so poor?

      See what I did there?

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, I have to say, if you paid for your college and earned/saved that without any assistance – than good for you. And twice as good if you work in a career that directly contributes to society and still earned/saved that (which would probably mean you’re a financial genius, won a lottery, or made some very lucky investments). If you earned it doing something unsavory – then congratulations, you sold out in your twenties – you’re way ahead of the rest of us! And if you were given/inherited the money – then wow, you must have a lot of merit.

  • Anonymous

    Married, 37. $325k in retirement accounts; $100k in savings/liquid investments. About $250k equity in primary residence.

    Given our income, age, and plans to stay in DC we’re behind where we should be. At least our non-mortgage debt is low (one used car and a little left in low-interest grad school loans). Also, no kids.

  • Anonymous

    I’m 30, $75k in my 401k, $5k in liquid savings. I bought my first house a few years ago and of course still owe a ton on it.

    How do 23 – 25 year old folks get $100k+ in their savings or anywhere in their portfolio? I’m not judging– more power to them. I think it’s great. Are these people contributing to retirement at age 14??

    When my grandmother died she left me $1k. I went to Europe. I wish I had inheritance coming my way but sadly that won’t happen.

    • 27, single, $40,000 in government TSP (401k equivalent), $25,000 in liquid savings, and $125,000 (30%) equity in my condo. I grew up in a blue collar family and have been working since I was 16, for the government since 21. I went to college and grad school on scholarships and stipends and would encourage others to do so whenever possible. Having no student debt is the single most influential factor in my financial situation. Sure, I went to a less prestigious school in exchange for the additional financial aid, but times have changed and prestigious school names on your resume no longer guarantee you a job (let alone a well-paying job).

    • anon

      My parents were both financial planners. So when I got my first job at 16, they pounded into my head that even on my measly after school salery, I needed to put money in a ROTH IRA. So, every ear, with the help of my parents in HS and college, I put the max I was allowed into a ROTH IRA for any job I worked until I graduated college. Not fun for me, but I suppose I am grateful now. And when I started working, the first thing I did was sign up to put as much money in my 401K as allowed – I never saw that money, so I never got used to having it. There were some lean years, but I hope it pays off in the end.

  • Keep in mind that these numbers are all basically comparing apples to oranges. The key figure that’s important is how much each person will need at retirement.

    Let’s assume two 30 year olds each have $100,000 saved for retirement. One makes $50,000 a year, the other makes $100,000 a year.

    You could say the $50K person is doing a “better” job at saving for retirement.

    But it’s really the complete picture that matters. The $50K person could have a lot of credit card debt, and the $100K person could own their home outright.

    There’s no “right” amount that you should have saved at a certain age, without factoring in income and debt. Everyone’s situation is different.

    But if your employer matches contributions, you should almost always contribute up to the point of the match – otherwise you’re just throwing away free money.

  • CJ

    31, partner is 30.

    401k, stocks, real estate – about 1.2 million liquid

  • Anonymous

    31 and single. $100K in retirement, $40K in savings. Planning to use half of the savings to pay off student loans soon.

  • KLR

    26, single. I have about $250K in retirement investments. About $8K in a 401K, which makes me sad compared to everyone else here, but I’ve only been working a year and a half and they just switched me from a GSRA to a matching 401K at 10%. In liquid savings, I have about $5K.

    I just find myself to be incredibly lucky. I inherited a nice chunk from my grandmother and my parents have always been financially wise. I’ll probably be set for retirement in a few years due to my father’s investments, but I’m trying to traverse the retirement landscape on my own because I want to feel self-sufficient in saving on my own. So far, I’m not really that good at it compared to the rest of the readership here, it seems.

  • Anonymous

    Age 50. Wife and I have about $500,000 in retirement with about $20k in cash. We have $200k in equity in our house. We have no credit card debt. We have organized our finances so that the house and all student loans will be paid off by the time I’m 65. We are also saving for our child’s college, which should be mostly paid for by the time he is 18.

    Neither of us has a trust fund, and neither is likely to inherit much. So, it’s all on us.

  • 36, single. $280,000 in retirement (TSP and Roth). $20,000 in investments. $10,00 in savings. Lotsa insurance, umbrella and life.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    31, married, no kids. About 165,000 in retirement and about 50,000 in savings. No debt except the mortgage. I thought we were doing well until reading some of the responses…

  • Hmm

    Say I had $15,000 sitting in a savings account.. What would be a better use for this, something to make a better rate of return that I could still easily have access to if I needed the money..

    Mid 20s and have $80K in the 401(k), so not looking to pad that too much more.

    • Honey Badger

      If you want to be able to readily access the money, there really isn’t anywhere you can put cash these days that it will earn much better than a savings account. You could look for a money market fund through a bank, but at best you’re probably only going to get 0.5% or so. The online only banks usually have the best rates.

      • Anonymous

        A CD will give you slightly better returns than a savings account. Depending on how liquid you need the money to be, you can set up a CD each month, so that each month 1/12 of what you have in CDs would come available without early withdrawal penalty. If you don’t need it, you can roll it right over into another CD. I did this when I was in grad school, and it allowed me to get a bit more return on my meager savings while still giving me some extra to draw from on those occasions when I had to come up with 3 months’ rent for a new apartment, etc.

    • I would keep 6 months as emergency cash and then beyond that either to online savings (ally and ing both have almost 1%), or an e series savings bond – it adjusts with inflation. It is locked up for the first year but after that you can pull it out whenever you need the money.

    • Anonymous

      See if you can find a credit union. Mine offers 2.1 APY on checking if you have direct deposit, use online banking, and have 12 check card transactions each month. You keep your money liquid while making more than most CDs out there.

  • Anonymous

    38, single. This thread has made me realize I have no idea how much is in my TSP.

    • That is one of our biggest challenges in the retirement industry – to get people to pay attention and become educated.

      Most people only pay attention to their retirement accounts when they get their quarterly statement – and some not even then. We actually have to increase staff in our call center when statements come out because people panic when they see their statement if it’s gone down and move their money around when that’s the exact opposite of what most people should do if they’re not close to retiring.

      Bottom line – unless you’re maxing out your contributions – you can always do more. Not everyone can do this of course, but every bit helps.

      • Anonymous 10:06 a.m.

        I know I’m contributing up to the maximum matchable amount. I can’t remember whether I’m contributing anything beyond that; I guess I probably ought to change it so that I am.

        I was slightly late getting started on contributing to my TSP, though — I had to wait 6 months (IIRC) until I was considered “vested” and allowed to contribute, and when the 6-month anniversary rolled around, I forgot. So I didn’t start contributing until a year after starting with the federal government, and unfortunately I haven’t been with the federal government for my entire working career.

  • Anonymous

    Not nearly enough. $27K in savings, $5K in a Roth IRA. And I’m 33! :-/

  • Anonymous

    I am 34 and single. Newly divorced, which took out $50k from my retirement savings. I currently have $75k in retirement, $25k in cash/emergencies and 3 homes – 2 rentals and 1 residence. They are 1/3 paid off, but mostly owned by the bank.

    I know I have more than others and I should be grateful for being lucky, but the divorce really took a chunk out of my savings and long-term plans are shot to hell. I am going to take half my savings and invest in a restaurant. What the hell, you only live once.

  • TG

    I was always sort of anti-social security growing up but now that my parents are retired I see its value. My mom urgently needs that money and draws about 2k a month. It is called an entitlement but it isn’t. We all put into that fund. I’d like to see it preserved for future generations. I know I will need it.

    • anonymous

      Well, TG, if you’re like me (born in the 1980s), you get statements from the Social Security Administration with an asterisk after the promised, projected benefit that essentially says, “If nothing changes in the way of reform, you are on track to receive 75% of your promised benefit.” I think that could change eventually if they make it means-based and tell me I’m not eligible for this benefit altogether. I’m counting on SS not being there. If, by some miracle, it is there when I retire, I will count on it being “fun money” for the movies and eating out, because that is probably all it will be worth in the future.

    • KenyonDweller

      “Entitlement” is not a dirty word. Social Security and Medicare are “entitlements” because they are structured as insurance programs. We are “entitled” to the benefits because we have paid our premiums. This is distinguished from what has traditionally been thought of as welfare, such as Medicaid or food stamps. Social Security and Medicare are not handouts.

      Don’t buy into the right wing spin.

  • OP

    I was the OP. This has been very interesting. I think i feel a bit better about my situation after reading the posts and seeing the polls. It is more clear now, when comparing oneself to others, to understand just how different situations are. Where you are now can greatly depend on where you came from. Some people were financially lucky. They had financial support to get them to where they are now. Some others like myself have had to struggle more to get to where they are. I had to work full time while putting myself through college. I did not start college until I was 33 so that also put me pretty far behind. At 42 I have just gotten to the point where I feel I am “good” in my career, I have extra money each week and don’t live paycheck to paycheck, yet I have a past life of not being in that situation to pay for. If all goes well I should be debt free (outside of condo payment currently at 25% equity) by the time I am 45 and can bang away maximum funds for retirement. I might not be where I want to be, but I do feel better about where I am.

    • Exactly! As I’ve been posting, every situation is different – glad to hear this has made you feel better!

  • Anonymous

    26 years old. 4,000 in emergency fund. 8, 000 in retirement + recent SEP IRA. Reading other answers is not reassuring.

  • Here’s a good source that compiles several different online retirement calculators:

  • Single, 35, $50,000 in my Roth IRA and old company account, probably $20,000 to $25,000 in my TSP, $11,000 in stocks, $40,000 in equity in the house (probably more, but this is based on what I paid for it, not what I think it would sell for now – my area’s a little bubbly, and long-term, I’m not sure what the real equity is). In cash, I have approximately $19,000 as an emergency fund, and $4,000 for other types of savings – new car, house repairs.

  • 27, single.

    $37K in equity (I used Zillow, not sure how reliable that is). If I understand this, equity is what the house is worth – what I owe, so I have $37K in equity on my condo.

    $35K in my 401K.

    $6K in savings. Had about $14K last year, but I put about a $7k down payment on the condo.

    But I owe $50K in school loans. I’m not entirely sure if this is good at this stage in my life. I’ve only had a 401K for 4 years, so I think 35K in 4 years is pretty good? Not sure.

  • jaybeas

    I agree that the poll isn’t really useful unless you break it down by age.

    Basically, if you qualify, do a Roth IRA (there are some income limitations). If your employer does any sort of matching, at a minimum you should contribute that amount to your account; otherwise you’re leaving free money on the table. In the more likely event your employer doesn’t match, start with a certain percentage and gradually increase what’s being added (most retirement accounts allow you to set this up automatically).

    Ideally you’ll contribute the max to your IRA/401(k) allowed by law, but if you don’t have the income to do that, put as much as you can into it. Then forget about it for the most part – adjust to your take-home pay with that amount coming out. If you don’t have any investing experience or interest in doing the research, just put your money into a fund that balances automatically based on your anticipated date of retirement. If you do this, I would suggest not even looking at the performance (except for maybe a yearly check-in).

    The younger you are getting started saving for retirement, even if it’s a couple hundred bucks a month, the better off you’ll be in the long-run.

  • MAR

    I am 29 and single, I have ~50k in a 401k and ~ 30k in savings. I rent and owe about 32k in student loans still. I guess I thought I was doing really well…but maybe not so much now.

    • anonymous

      MAR, you’re doing far better than the average American. Keep paying off the student loans. What constitutes a good stash for retirement is completely relative. $500,000 in net wealth for someone with an income of $750,000 over the course of ten years would be bad. Yet, someone with $60,000 would be doing a great job if they had only been in the workforce a few years and were making a $50,000 salary. If you income is lower, it would be unreasonable to expect an upper income retirement bundle. This issue is too complicated to be captured in two sentence blurbs and a meaningless poll.

      • MAR

        Thanks for the encouragement!

  • Anonymous

    35, recently divorced. just like whoever posted earlier, that divorce took a chunk out of my savings (my ex didn’t work, and he got a significant portion of my retirement. GRRRR).

    cash: $45k
    403b (left after divorce): about $100k
    equity in my house: $150k

    student loans -$8k
    mortgage: = -$230k
    credit card debt: $0

    i put myself through 2 private schools (undergrad and grad school) so paying down the student debt from over $200k to just under $10k was a big deal for me.

    my net worth is pretty close to zero, since all my assets are pretty much wiped out by what i owe on my house, but it’s getting better with each payment i make.

    Also, my understanding of retirement calculators is that most of them assume that you won’t own a property free and clear (i.e. will either continue renting if you do so now, or won’t have your mortgage paid off). for those of us who are planning on paying off the mortgage well before retirement, we need significantly less than what most calculators spit out.

    I think overall, for having spent the last 15 years in the nonprofit sector, I’m doing OK. I wish I had more in my retirement, but putting myself through school cost $$$. Sometimes I wonder if I should have just gone into banking like everyone else I went to college with!

    • Anonymous

      Mmy ex didn’t work either (do we see a theme here?). She actually wanted me to pay alimony (no kids), and she went to law school but didn’t want to work. I thought I got pretty easy in the divorce settkement. Thank god for lawyers — something I thought I’d never say!

      • Anonymous

        my ex wanted $1k/mo in spousal support (no kids, he was just lazy and used to living off me for the past decade). I told him to go F himself.

        While the divorce took a significant bite out of my savings, I have to say that I’m now saving a lot more that I only have to support myself on my salary instead of two people. It’s like I got a huge raise! :)

    • Anonymous

      What you owe on your mortgage does not wipe out your net worth. If you’re going to count that as a debt, as you should, then you have to count the full value of your house as an asset. You can’t say the bank owns your house and your mortgage.

  • anon

    I’m 37, unmarried but partnered, have 68k in retirement, 60k in accessible savings/investments, with no credit card balances or other loans. Guess I should be saving more. Self employed so no employer match, and there’s a SEP cap on how much you can contribute to retirement each year.

  • Anonymous

    I’m 34, single, and have about $26k in retirement savings, $10k in liquid savings, and about $50k equity in my condo. I’m behind, but until 4 years ago I had zero savings (retirement or otherwise) and didn’t think I had a shot in hell at owning my own place in DC. I am very fortunate in that my organization has an awesome retirement plan–they do an automatic contribution of 10%, regardless of whether I contribute or not. Whenever I get frustrated with work I try to remember how good I have it here.

    • iaom

      How did you go about turning things around for yourself? Sounds like a good start.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks! I feel a bit of a mess but every day I work on it. I started meditating and doing yoga. I also had amazing attorneys that made sure to protect my assets (owned 2 of the properties before marriage). During the separation, being finacially ok wasn’t my #1 priority — it took a backseat to making sure I didn’t burst into tears at work, didn’t drive off a bridge, etc. — but now emerging from the fog I realize how important it is.

  • Anonymous

    30, single. $30k in retirement, about $20 in liquid savings. About $10k left in student loans (graduated w/ $40k in debt 4 years ago). I rent.

    I also feel really far behind compared to most people posting on this thread.

    • Anonymous

      That should say I have 20 thousand in liquid savings, not 20 dollars. Fortunately, I cannot store my savings in my back pocket, so that’s a start.

    • anon

      I had very minimal savings until about 32; that’s just life. Most people are poor as shit in their 20s. I think I had about 10k in retirement and 10k in savings at 30 and am now on a good track.

  • Epiphanic

    I’m 28 and single.

    My retirement accounts total approximately $52k. $35k is in my TSP and $17k in various investments. I also have ~$11k in cash, but I don’t count that towards retirement because it’s purpose is to give me a buffer (emergency fund, etc.).

    In my opinion, cash flow is king. My goal is to save/invest enough money that generates an income to cover my current expenses. Currently, that puts my number at a smidge above $1 million, but when I pay off my condo (no mortgage payment) that number drops to less than $600k.

    Bottom line, spend less than what you earn, and invest the remainder. Investments may start small, but eventually it starts to snowball.

  • anon

    31, single but living with someone/likely get married in the near future
    ~180k retirement savings, TSP/Roth
    ~20k emergency fund which works out to ~5 months
    I also own my place (well part of it) and after paying off the mortgage/realtor fees, would probably net 50k

    Whether you have a pension or not is also huge. I’m a fed and I know that while FERS is far less generous than CSRS but still, it can equal around 40% of your salary if you are lifetime fed. You would need to save another 10% of your salary every year, likely more, to match that benefit.

  • DClady

    Put myself through college, no inheritance or assistance from parents etc. Just want to point out that we should all be cognizant that we all have different starting points. It’s great if you have inherited $ and if you haven’t, we just have a little bit extra work to do :)

    26, 5k emergency fund, 8k in 401k, recently purchased my first place :) Killed my savings!

    • Anonymous

      “It’s great if you have inherited $ and if you haven’t, we just have a little bit extra work to do…” You do sound like a lady. Congrats to you on all the financial milestones you’ve hit so far.

  • Anon

    Married, 28 & 31.

    Emergency Fund (Cash) – $48k
    Retirement Accounts – $158k
    Taxable Investments – $26k
    Home Equity (Based of Zillow data) – $64k

    Mortgage – $468k
    Credit Cards – $0

    Another commenter mentioned that not having student loans was the single most important attribute to their financial success so far — I would agree, as both myself and wife were fortunate enough to graduate without loans (2x undergrad, 1x grad).

    • RE: student loans, do applicants see the ultimate payoff amount when they sign on the dotted line? I remember seeing that final number during the process of obtaining my mortgage, and it was very instructive (i.e., 30 years of payments = a lot more interest than principle). If prospective students do see those numbers, they probably come from a university’s financial aid office instead of an independent financial planner. That is interesting to me in this day and age of consumer protection, since the university derives a financial benefit from every student that agrees to pay exhorbitant tuition (even if via loans). I would love to see the CFPB tackle student debt by making sure prospective students see the “real” amount they are paying for their education. Bonus if they include an analysis of what that amount would have made earning interest as an investment (well, in the future world, where cash earns interest again) instead of paying interest as a debt.

  • Mony

    30 – single
    $34k in TSP
    $50k in Roth IRA
    $300k in investments (apologies sound like a douche-trust fund’d)
    $30k in cash
    $100k in equity in condo

  • Anonymous

    32/31. About 400k saved incl 401ks. But we also have about $800k in liab include student loans, car and mortgage.

  • DJ

    I’m 28 and single. 5k in savings, about 16k in 401k and 24k in a roth IRA. Like a few others I thought i was doing pretty well, but it seems I have some catching up to do.

    • Anonymous

      I think you’re doing well. I’m about where you are (posted above @ anon 11:32am) and 2 years older. The thing to keep in mind, for both of us, is that we’ll probably be working for another 35-37 years…. which is scary thought in a way, but it also is a lot of time for the opportunity to have increases income and growth in investments, hopefully.

  • GreenThumb

    38, legally married in nine states and DC to my 29 year old husband – between us, we have $390,000 in various IRAs and 401Ks, $575,000 in a deffered compensation fund, $81,000 in cash savings across a handful of accounts, $17,000 in a brokerage account, an estimated $400,000 in equity in our house, and a total of just $9 in our wallets at the moment.

  • Anonymous

    35, married. $90k in 401k and TSP. $45k in savings. Car payment, student loans and mortgage are our only debt. I put myself through college and have had considerable financial responsibility for my mother. I paid off my student loans in 8 years, and we are on track to pay off my husband’s $120k in student loans in 9 years (which is four years from now, and I can’t wait!).

    I grew up helping buy groceries and pay the bills, so I am adamant about getting rid of this debt even if it means not having as much in a retirement account. You never know when life is going to sucker punch you and at least with no debt you can figure out a way to make it.

  • 17thSt

    Now I see why posters on other topics were talking about being depressed by the Question of the Day. Include me in that group!
    I am well into middle-age and have almost nothing to retire on – I was totally wiped out by the Depression of 2009. (Recession? Hah! Not in my house.) Re-started from scratch after 10 months of unemployment, at a job that I was vastly over-qualified for, at about 25% less than I’d been making previously. And yes, I was extremely lucky and grateful to get that. Since then I’ve been trying to put more aside, but it’s only been recently that I have been promoted enough to get beyond basics that way.
    As for what age I think I’ll retire – at this point, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to just stop working; I only hope that I have a job as long as I need it and stay healthy enough to keep at it. (I am already far too old to hope some sugar daddy comes along to save me. Sigh.)

  • Anonymous

    23: Net worth: is about 0 dollars, and I am damn proud of it!

    I have worked my butt off to get down to -6k in student loan debt.
    I have about 1k in my checking, 1k in savings, 2k in emergency savings and 1k in my mutual fund, and 1k in a 501 College Savings Plan

    I also have a TSP, but I don’t know how much I am making, but I have been contributing 4% for 2 years matched (now up to 5%).

    But the thought of saving for a down payment on a house, a car, and grad school has me really worried about retirement. My sig other is 80k in student loan debt.

    I take comfort knowing most people my age will never retire comfortably, especially without wealthy parents.

    • Anonymous

      If you have good credit, the idea of saving a huge amount for a down payment is kind of a myth. We have been able to buy 3 pieces of property and never have had to put down more than 3-4%. It helps to maintain a good employment record and a relationship with your local bank lending officer. And don’t buy anything you couldn’t rent out for as much as you are paying in mortgage or afford in rent yourself.

      • 23 Anon at 1:05 pm

        I barely know what any of this means on this thread, does anyone have any good resources for people trying to start out planning for the future? That breaks it all down? This post has been sort of useful, but most people are much farther ahead than I am.

        It is troublesome, especially since I know neither my mom nor my dad has a cent in retirement…ok now I am sad.

  • anon

    35, married. Of my own, I have $183k in TSP, $13.5k in Roth, $3.8k in traditional IRA, $9k in emergency cash. Working as a fed, so will get pension (hopefully!!) as well.

    Both of my parents have passed, inherited about $240k in a 401k (now about $82k after using as down payment on house) and a very modest house which I recently sold (walked away with about $41k which is now in tax-free bonds). Own a house in DC and have maybe $40k equity excluding down payment (maybe more now).

    BTW, I learned that DC residents can buy any other states’ tax-free bonds and earnings are DC income tax free. So, if you can put your spare cash anywhere, I’d put it there. Beats any savings account now that’s for sure.

    • Anonymous

      Tax free bonds don’t make sense unless you’re in the top income tax bracket. Yes they beat savings account interest but there is also very very real risk of default (i.e., you lose everything) If you insist on being in bonds invest in taxable investment grade corporate bonds. But with any bonds these days, you are almost sure to have your investments plunge over the next few years as interest rates increase back up to normal rates or higher.

  • anon

    age: 31
    401K: around 20K
    savings: 12K
    debt: only 2K left of student loans!

  • Anonymous

    I started putting money into a 401K when I started with my company right out of college. It seemed stupid not to, we get matching contributions up to a certain percentage. Also at that time the market was earning 25% some years, averaging about 12% over 5 years. Since then performance has been way down and I took a couple loans out to pay other debts and buy real estate. But starting out early is the only reason I have more than 100K saved. I am not counting on it as my only retirement income. I’ve got a small pension fund and there’s SS, plus investment properties – although those will probably have to be liquidated to send the kids to college.
    The folks I know who are well off either inherited it or are in business or authors. You do not get rich doing what my hubby and I do for a living.

  • Arlington

    I’m 26 and have about 11k in my 401K (no company match) and 6k in general savings.

    Getting ready to make the 100k plunge into grad school. Pray for me.

    • Anonymous

      I’m richer than every single one of you, it appears. So why do I feel poor?

      • anon

        Because you’re PPercy and feeling poor is how you roll?

      • Anonymous

        because it’s rare to appreciate what we have.

  • anon

    Married. 30 and 27.

    About 60k in retirement accounts, though that is growing much faster the past couple years. About 10k in student loan debt between us.

    About 200k equity in the house, as far as we can tell.

    Our hope is to transfer our jobs somewhere with cheap real estate next year while keeping our fairly modest-for-DC salaries; then take the home equity and pay all our debt, and go with almost no mortgage. Then it should be pretty straightforward to start saving an extra grand or two per month. If we pull it off, the house will be paid for by our 50s, with a decent-sized wad in the bank. God willing, that’ll be enough to pay for potential offspring and/or retire.

  • Anonymous

    i’m poor. little savings. very little income but i love what i do.
    i have a house though, owe about 150,000 on it.

    middle aged. no rich relatives.

  • Anon

    24 and single. 9k in Roth, 1k in (new) 401k with matching, 1k in savings. Newly debt free and working to build up Roth and emergency fund. Which is more important at my age? Should I build up 6 months of savings first or try building up savings and Roth simultaneously?

  • Anon5

    I’m wondering, where are you all planning on retiring to?

    If I’m still living in the U.S. when I reach retirement age, I will go to another country. There are 20,000 retired Americans living in Costa Rica, for example, where the cost of retirement living is <$20k per year.

  • Anonymous

    37, single, salary $135k, cash savings $60k, home equity $215k-ish, TSP+401k+Roth+nonretirement mutual funds $300k

  • Anonymous

    Single, no kids folks: regardless of how much you have saved, seems like a miserable retirement and legacy. Cats do not count.

    • anonymous

      you wrote this at 10:45pm on a Friday night. Let me guess: you live in the ‘burbs and are bored silly with your life, the spouse you barely like and the kids you resent, so you’re going to take it out on the singles. You’re awesome.

    • Anonymous

      What about single with kids and marrieds without kids? How do those play into your assertion?

    • Anonymous

      Dogs count, right?

    • Anonymous

      Wow, judgemental at all?

    • Anonymous


  • anonymous

    36, single. Rent, no debt.
    A little under 100k between my old TSP and current 401(k)
    120k in savings
    7k in my lil’ Ameritrade account.
    I feel like I’m doing ok overall, especially since I come from little and didn’t have much throughout my 20’s, but still nervous about the future.

    • Anonymous

      You’re doing fine, but if that $120k in savings is in cash, you should definitely get most of it (minus enough for emergency fund) invested ASAP. Put what you can into Roth IRA and the rest into a nonretirement investment account. (Depending on your income you could put about $13k into a Roth between now and January 2.) How about whole market, diversified, equity index funds, maybe 70% in Vanguard’s VTSMX and 30% in VGTSX. Then revisit this in five years or so when you’re in your 40s and interest rates have come back to normal, and decide if you should allocate some of your investments to bond mutual funds.

  • For my retirement plan, I’m working on a really great screenplay. . .

    But seriously, I put all my savings into property, so have 3 rental units which I already live off. My home is nearly paid for, and the value of the property is very good. I bought long ago, in CH and lived cheaply and with roommates for 20 years.

    I’m not worried about paying for nursing home, assisted living etc. because if I get to the point where I need that – there’s no point – I’m jumping off a cliff.

  • Anonymous Coward

    I just got a powerball ticket.

  • me

    32 years old. female. divorced.

    I have about $8500 in savings, $7K in a brokerage account, and about $140K in retirement..


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